Happy happy joy joy?

‘Lebanese leaders returned Wednesday evening to Beirut aboard a Qatari plane. Press reports on Thursday said Speaker Nabih Berri had a long chat with Druze leader Walid Jumblat on the plane. They said Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun sat next to former President Amin Gemayel, while Lebanese Forces official George Adwan sat beside FPM executive Jubran.

And so… 17 months after the opposition first demanded it, and through escalating their struggle consecutively from political pressure (pulling their ministers out of the government in december 2006) via civil disobedience and economic pressure (tent city in downtown Beirut since January 2007 and blocking the airport and airport road last week) to violent street action (also last week), they have finally succeeded in getting a blocking third in the government. It has been decided in Doha, Qatar, that a national unity government will be formed containing 16 M-14 members, 11 M-8 members and 3 further ministers to be appointed by the new president, current army chief of staff general Suleiman, who will be formally elected this coming sunday. Coincidentally, the Israeli government has announced virtually simultaneously that they are now officially engaged in Turkish-mediated peace talks with Syria. Just as surprisingly, all foreign sponsors of Lebanese parties, including the US and Saudi governments who are seemingly the big losers in this game, more or less wholeheartedly approved of the deal. It seems that the stakes were bigger than just the issue of power sharing in Lebanon after all. It looks like Hariri and Junblatt have returned to what they do best, i.e. selling Lebanon out to their so-called ‘mortal enemy’ Syria… Basically, in return for negotiating a peace treaty with Israel, Syria gets to have its way again in Lebanon. The only remaining question must concern the Golan heigths (and the Shebaa farms of course). Iran gets an even better deal, seeing its influence and prestige increased without having to give in as much as an inch on any front. Qatar managed to increase its role as a ‘regional peacemaker’ while at the same time snubbing its eternal rival Saudi Arabia and its ‘diplomatic efforts’. Of course, the real losers in this game are the Lebanese people, who will continue to be ruled by the same bunch of warlords, feudal landowners and assorted mafioso’s who have been exploiting them and their country for the past hundred years or so. The puppet masters change, the puppets remain in place. There’s still no sign of Lebanon becoming a real democracy or a secular state, and sectarian tensions have been exploited to the full in the course of the political struggle, and remain at frightening levels even with this accord, which is widely felt as a humiliation for the sunni population. The druze, flexible as ever, have already made the switch to allying themselves with the new winners, even if Junblatt has yet to formally announce it (he did ask US ambassador Michèle Sison yesterday to please stop praising M-14 personalities, especially Siniora). And the minimum wage increase? Oh, we’ve kind of conveniently and collectively all forgotten about that…

Update 1: ‘1:50pm Cabinet minister Jihad Azour said the pay raise is effective as of May 1, 2008.’ That is the 50% raise conceded by the government on the day before the scheduled strike, not the tripling of the wage demanded by those trade unions linked to the opposition (except the ones linked to Aoun, who is the most neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalist in Lebanon). The day after, the government raised the price of fuel…

Meanwhile, the ever prompt and efficient Hizbullah militants have already started to dismantle their tents in downtown, which can now return to being the commercial and (posher kind of) nightlife hub of Beirut. Apart from one isolated incident at Tariq al-Jdeide yesterday night, no violent clashes seem to have taken place this week, and so we can envisage a period of relative calm, peace and prosperity for Lebanon, maybe even including a profitable tourist season this summer. The perfect occasion, in other words, for Israel to return on an extensive bombing campaign against the now officially ‘Hizbullah-controlled’ state of Lebanon, especially after neutralizing Syria with a (possible) peace treaty…

Update 2: ‘2:45pm New TV reported that all tents have been removed from down town Beirut and the barbed wire fence protecting the seat of government also has been removed.’

Where all this leaves the Hariri tribunal is an open question too – and, in fact, a moot one, since the tribunal has never been intended to reveal ‘al-haqiqa’ (the truth), but rather has been a mere political pressure tool from the start. As soon as possible, unless it still proves to be useful to those who set it up, it will probably be allowed to die a quiet death…

And so we remain…


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